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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, March 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 62          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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South of Río Matina
Caribbean land bought for major project

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 1,100 acres on the south side of the Río Matina in the Provincia de Limón are now in the hands of developers who say they plan a major project.

Although construction probably will not start until 2008, the developers are the same people who are in the middle of an upscale project on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua.

The property in Limón is called Playa del Sol, and it includes 1.85 miles (3 kms.) of Costa Rican Caribbean beach frontage and 1,112 acres. The property title goes to the 50-meter mark from high water thanks to decades of use prior to passage of Costa Rica's maritime zone law.

Although the property is held in a corporation, Playa del Sol S.A., the individual owners include Warren Stetson, 82, of Heredia. He is a long-time resident of Costa Rica. He recalled Monday night that people laughed when he purchased the property in 1970.

The property has a fresh water lake and connections to the sea via the mouth of the Río Matina that can be used in the development of a marina. The Tortugero canal runs along the west property line and goes north nearly to the Nicaraguan border.

The property was purchased by a new company called Grand Caribbean Developments S.A. The purchase price listed at the Registro Nacional is $2.8 million although the property had been offered for sale for $10 million.

The land is relatively flat and open for development except for mangroves along the Río Matina and canal. The Puerto Limón and the city of Limón are to the south.

If developed, the project would be the biggest on the Caribbean coast to date. There also are no marinas on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica except for the Limón and Moín ports. The project certainly would be welcomed by Costa Rican officials and

Satellite photo of proposed development

business people in the area because the Caribbean residents have long complained of being passed over by economic development.

A preliminary plan for the land done by the previous owners includes an 18-hole golf course and 2,000 residential lots. Sites also were sketched out for hotels and stores.

Michael Cobb, president of Gran Pacifica in Nicaragua, said his associates may invest as much as $40 million in the first stage of the Caribbean development.

"Based on what we are granted in permits, we anticipate a residential and marina community that takes advantage of the canal that the banana companies dug there 50 years ago," said Cobb in an e-mail.  "We expect to create a work similar in size and scope to Gran Pacifica."

Gran Pacifica is described as a $50 million development similar to Costa Rica's upscale Los Sueños near Jacó. The development hosts five condo projects. The parent company of both projects appears to be ECI Ltd., a Pittsburgh, Pa., resort development company.

The Nicaraguan project is due west of Managua and has 6 kms. or nearly 4 miles of beach front. Small homes and lots are being offered starting at $99,000.

Poker expert to offer advice in weekly column
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica begins today a column each Tuesday of poker advice by Daniel Negreanu, who has made his living as a professional poker player since 1992.  He is the 2004-2005 World Poker Tour Player of the Year, 2004 ESPN Player of the Year, and 2004 Card Player Magazine Player of the Year.

Negreanu, 31, comes from Toronto, Canada, and now live in Las Vegas. His $7 million-plus in winnings from tournament play ranks him right up at the top as one of the career leaders in professional poker earnings.

"My goal is simple," said Negreanu.  "I want to provide useful information that will help make you a better player so that you can get more enjoyment out of the game.  Every
week you’ll learn a 'poker nugget' that you can put to use immediately, either in your weekly home game or in your trips to the online poker room of your choice.  Reading this column may help you pick up some extra cash, too!"

Negreanu also maintains a Web page where he fields questions from readers.

This newspaper chose to add a poker column in recognition of the high popularity of the game in Costa Rica. There are even women's club poker meetings, as well as professional games offered by many casinos.

As the newspaper continues to grow, editors will be adding more features.

See the poker column HERE!

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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Óscar Arias makes a point while President Abel Pacheco and Lineth Saborío, vice president, stand by.

Natallia Artavia
Canal 13

Hilda Chacón Brenes
Tico Noticias

Carlos Mora
El Heraldo

Gerardo Mora
Radio Victoria

Angelica Carvajal
Radio Monumental

Limits on questions irk
Casa Presidencial reporters

By Saray Ramírez Vindas

of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Newspeople got their first taste of the information policies of the new administration Monday when Casa Presidencial press workers told them their questions would be restricted.

The newspeople were waiting to find out what President Abel Pacheco and president-elect Óscar Arias Sánchez talked about over lunch. The general topic obviously was the form the new Arias government would take.

But then Cindy Centeno of the Pacheco press office arrived with the news that only one question would be entertained from each type of communication medium. Television reporters could ask one question, radio reporters one more, news agency reporters another, and, finally, newspaper reporters could ask one.

The outline failed to take into account that reporters generally do not like to share views with their competition. The Casa Presidencial edict would require them to discuss issues and decide on one question.
Reporters did not take the order well. Most agreed that it was unacceptable for politicians to dictate rules that limited discussion.

For example, Hilda Chacón Brenes of Tico Noticias said she did not agree with this measure and that "Every journalist has the right to bring out information that is important for the people of the country for their needs and development."

Carlos Mora of the daily El Heraldo said he thinks that even though press conferences are managed limiting the access to information, one question it is not enough to meet his concerns.

Marcella Villalobos of Diario Extra said the rule is a very bad signal of the relation of the new administration with the press. "If Don Oscar Arias says that he will be open with the media, that new rule does not show any opening and otherwise limits the access to information and the information [reporters] want to provide to the readers."

Natalia Artavia of Canal 13 and Angelica Carvajal of Radio Monumental said Costa Ricans live in a democratic country and free speech and access to the information is part of this.  Gerardo Mora, director of Realidad Nacional on Radio Victoria, said he sees several ways of looking at the issue but the information is limited in either case.

President Pacheco has been open with questions at his regular Tuesday press conference, but most of the time reporters are limited to the subjects that Pacheco defines. Only at the end of the session is the floor thrown open to general questions. The administration also has been known to plant questions with helpful reporters. And Pacheco has a way of ducking hot questions by using self-deprecating humor.

So far, Arias has not said if he will meet with reporters on a regular basis.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 62


No one ever said poker was fair: The weak player
If someone describes your playing style as weak, you’re in lots of trouble. You’d better make changes to your game quickly to shed that reputation.

If you want to win at the poker table, focus on the weak players. Rather than duke it out with strong, aggressive players, you’ll risk less and win more, in the long run, playing against timid, passive players.

In order to pound on the shaky players properly, the first thing you’ll need to do is identify them.  There are generally a few clues that you can look for, that, while not always accurate, could be signs nonetheless.

1.)    How he dresses.  A player who dresses extremely conservatively will generally play poker that way.  If he dresses loudly, he’ll more than likely play aggressively or flamboyantly.

2.)    How he talks.  This is in line with the previous clue.  If a player is quiet or timid in the way he speaks, chances are that’s how he’ll play poker.  Conversely, if you’re dealing with a boisterous or overexcited talker he’ll probably be an aggressive player.

3.) Does he raise before the flop or just call?  If he likes to limp in on a regular basis, you might be dealing with a weak player.

4.) Does he like to bet, or check and call?  An aggressive player is a bettor, while a weaker player tends to check or just call others’ bets.

Once you’ve identified the weak players at your table, it’s time to strategize against them.  Playing against a weak player is without a doubt, the easiest type of opponent to face.  In fact, your cards often don’t even matter since your inferior foe plays so predictably.

The key principle to think about is to basically pound him like an anvil!  Do it repeatedly – like the school bully who steals his target’s lunch money – until he starts to stick up for himself.  If he keeps giving it up, you keep taking it.  Hey, no one said poker was supposed to be fair.

When you have position on an ineffective player it makes it that much easier. What you really want to look for are opportunities to get the weak opponent heads up.  How do you do that?  Well, when the helpless one limps into a pot you try to isolate him with a decent sized raise. That will often knock everyone out but the timid player. Now you’ve got him where you want him.  If the player is extremely weak, it doesn’t even matter if you have a 2-7 in your hand.

You really aren’t playing your hand anyway, you’re playing the player.

If you are able to get the weak player heads up, with position, you’ll let his actions, or lack of them, dictate what you should do.  If he bets the flop, you can be pretty sure he has a good hand.  If you don’t flop a very good hand, now would be an excellent time to fold.  You might be playing the player, but you can’t ignore his bet entirely.

If he checks the flop, then you should bet, regardless of what you have.  If, however, your inept opponent check-raises you, run and hide!  Unless, of course, you flop a strong hand yourself.   The only time you may want to check is if you flop the nuts and want to give him a free card.  Otherwise, you should always bet the flop and look to win the pot right there.

The tricky decision comes when the weak player decides to just call, which he will often do.  At that point you have to make a game time decision as to whether your opponent flopped a drawing hand or a made hand.

Since your opponent is weak, he won’t give you much information about his hand by the way he plays it.  Generally, an inadequate player will check and call with either a made hand (like top pair) or a flush draw.

As a rule, proceed cautiously if a weak player calls you on the flop. If you have a good hand, by all means, bet.  But if you are bluffing, lean towards checking on the turn card since the weak player has shown some interest.

There is an old adage in poker that I think sums up that last point; “If you bluff a bad player, you then become one.”  Stay aggressive against weak players, but don’t get caught running without the ball when they show interest in the flop.

Visit www.fullcontactpoker.com/news to submit your questions and comments to poker champion Daniel Negreanu.

© 2006 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

Brutal machete attack kills woman who wanted to visit her son
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 63-year-old old woman in south Costa Rica was dismembered by an enraged man with a machete Monday morning. Police quickly arrested her 39-year-old son.

The victim was identified as Catalina Delgado Delgado of La Puna de Biolley in Buenos Aires, Puntarenas. She had returned to Costa Rica Thursday after working for several years in the United States caring for children, police said.
Investigators said that the woman decided to visit her son Monday morning because she had not seen him in some time.

He was said by relatives to be suffering some mental illness. Others said he was involved with chemical substances. Family members detained him until police arrived. He was identified as Mario Delgado Delgado.

Rodrigo Araya, regional director of the Fuerza Pública, said his men found multiple body parts in the vicinity of the man's home.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Volcano is off limits to tourists for three days more
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Volcán Poás will be under close watch for three more days as scientists try to figure out if activity since Friday is an indication of a much larger eruption yet to come.

Officials also said they wanted to plan ways of protecting visitors to the  Parque Nacional Volcán Poás when it is finally opened. They are talking about letting spectators enter in small, closely controlled groups and restricting access to some areas.
The volcano crater gave out two more eruptions Monday, bringing the total near 15 since midday Friday.

So far all of the eruptions have been confined inside the volcano crater. The crater gives off hot gases.

No matter what the decision is on allowing visitors back to the major tourist attraction, scientists will be keeping 24-hour watches for some time.  Nearly 300,000 tourists visit the volcano and its crater overlook each year.

U.S. and Canada keep a close eye on bird movements
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States and Canada are working closely to keep watch for the introduction of highly pathogenic avian influenza into North America, according to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.

With the rapid movement of this dangerous bird flu virus across Central Asia, Europe and into Africa over the last few months, U.S. officials have come to accept that the appearance of the H5N1 virus in North America is inevitable.

Even though the precise method of the disease’s spread is not fully understood, flocks of migratory birds are thought to be carriers of the virus, capable of infecting other forms of wildlife and domestic poultry.

The United States has announced a campaign to step up surveillance of migratory birds, which are expected to transport the disease out of East Asia, through the state of Alaska and into the Americas via migratory flyways.

“Since Canada is situated between Alaska and [the continental United States],” Norton said Friday in a  White House webchat, “we’ve [the United States] been coordinating closely with wildlife and health officials there and will continue to work with them on this important effort.”

Given the seasonal movements of flocks from Asia through Alaska and into the Americas, Norton said it is possible that the virus could arrive in Alaska during the Northern Hemisphere spring, which began March 20.

Later in 2006, the virus could be transported further south in Latin America during the autumnal migration.

Enhanced surveillance campaign

The enhanced surveillance campaign announced by three top government officials March 20 calls for detection and investigation of sick birds, monitoring of healthy birds, and targeted sampling of fowl to
ascertain how many birds might be carrying the H5N1 virus that has caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of birds since the epidemic began in late 2003.

With U.S. agencies on the verge of testing tens of thousands of wild birds, Norton was keen to point out that avian influenza viruses come in many forms and most of them are benign.

“It is quite possible that we could have dozens of H5N1 reports, with none turning out to be the highly pathogenic variety,” Norton said. “These low pathogenic viruses do not even cause particular problems for birds and are not relevant to human influenza concerns.”

The U.S. secretary of the Interior also reminded her audience that H5N1 is an animal disease, and the appearance of the virus in a given locale does not mean that an influenza outbreak among humans is imminent.

The virulent nature of the strain of influenza does make health officials worry about the development of a human flu pandemic.

Nearly 200 human infections in past two years

The virus has infected close to 200 people over the last two years, and killed 105 humans, the most recent deaths reported from China and Cambodia, according to World Health Organization.

Virtually all those infections occurred through direct contact with sick birds, but if the virus mutates to become contagious among humans, widespread illness and death could occur.

The human cases detected so far in eight nations show no evidence that the virus has developed that capability.

Norton also tried to quell the misperception that detection of H5N1 in wild birds poses an immediate threat to human health. “There are no documented cases of wild birds directly transmitting avian influenza to people,” Norton said.

México and Perú appear to be lurching to the left
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Public opinion polls taken in México and Perú show left-leaning candidates leading as presidential elections approach in the two countries. The current front-runners are in position to replace two close U.S. allies.

A recent Mexican public opinion poll shows leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador leading a field of presidential candidates, as the July 2 presidential election approaches.  Some 42 percent of respondents supported López Obrador, placing him ahead of ruling party candidate Felipe Calderón with 32 percent and Roberto Madrazo with 24 percent.

Critics of the former Mexico City mayor have branded him a populist for what they describe as handout programs during his tenure, but López Obrador has also sought support from Mexico's business elite, offering protection for industry.

George Haley, director of the University of New Haven's Center for International Industry Competitiveness, said that López Obrador would likely continue in the economic footsteps of his predecessors, including current President Vicente Fox, a U.S. ally.

"Obrador isn't a fire-breathing radical. México has had substantial economic improvement or economic enhancement and job creation under the policies of the most recent presidents," noted Haley.

In Perú, recent polls show former military officer Ollanta Humala leading the race for the presidency. With the election scheduled for April 9, polls show Humala holds a narrow 42-to-38-pecent lead over former Congresswoman Lourdes Flores.

The figures put him in position to replace Alejandro Toledo, a key U.S. ally who signed a free trade agreement with Washington last year.

Humala describes himself as a nationalist. He led a failed coup against President Alberto Fujimori in 2000, and is seen as a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Bolivian President Evo Morales, two leaders who have been political thorns in Washington's side.

While Flores is seen as a pro-business candidate and the favorite of international investors, Humala has
pledged to limit foreign investment in the Andean nation. He has also vowed to end the U.S.-sponsored campaign to eradicate coca production.

Russell Crandall, a Davidson College political science professor, says a victory by Humala could pose political problems for Washington:

"Humala poses to be a much more anti-American nationalist president who could really complicate the United States' drug policies in the Andes in particular, especially given that last December we saw the victory of former coca leader and populist Evo Morales."

Haley, of the University of New Haven, says the recent success of left-leaning leaders in Latin America has its roots in the conservative policies held by previous administrations. While such policies have been successful in countries like México, where Haley says some 750,000 jobs have been created since the 1992 North American Free Trade Agreement, expectations in other Latin countries have not been met.

"More conservative economic policies were, to a great extent, oversold, as to how fast they would create the benefits," he added. "They were also oversold as far as what benefits they would bring."

The leftward shift has had its effects in Washington. Crandall says the Bush administration has begun to understand that dealing with Latin America in ways that can be seen as heavy-handed could cause more nations to adopt radical-style governments.

"So I think what you will see from Washington, from the Bush administration is a lot of diplomatic carrots," he commented. "They'll have diplomatic visits in an effort to demonstrate that Washington is willing and able to do business with the left in Latin America."

The United States has had its problems in Latin America over the years, including a decades-old feud with Cuban President Fidel Castro. Washington has also traded barbs with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez since his election in 1998.

More recently, newly-elected Bolivian President Evo Morales campaigned on promises to legalize the cultivation of coca, the base ingredient of cocaine. A former leader in the country's coca growers association, Morales had also vowed to be "a thorn in the side of the United States."

Jo Stuart
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